Should I Drink Coconut Water Before Running A Marathon?

With lots of fitness and health enthusiasts claiming how great coconut water is, you might start to wonder about this hype. Could it boost your marathon performance?

I’m going to investigate whether you should be drinking coconut water before and during a marathon and bust some common myths by telling you everything you need to know about this popular drink.

So, Should I Drink Coconut Water Before Running A Marathon?

What Is Coconut Water?

Coconut water has long been popular as a tasty alternative to drinking plain water, and a healthier option to soda and sugary drinks. Not to be confused with coconut milk or coconut water. It is the liquid found in the centre of the coconut – usually from younger coconuts, where the juice is often tastier than mature coconuts.

Nutritionally, natural coconut water typically contains about 3mg of sugar as well as sodium and potassium electrolytes. However, when processed, the sugar content can be higher, with brands containing up to 12g per can (12oz). By comparison, most branded sports drinks will be around 20-25g per 12oz serving and sodas around 40g per can!

Clearly, if you’re looking for something as a low-sugar alternative to soda and sports drinks, coconut water would be a pretty solid choice. However, don’t be fooled by claims that it is all-natural. Many brands will add sugar, just like with other drinks, although just in lower quantities.

Should I Be Drinking It?

Taste-wise, it has a mild, slightly sweet flavour, popular with lots of people, meaning you might find yourself reaching for a few sips after a tough marathon training session.

Firstly, coconut water will clearly provide rehydrating benefits at least as good as plain water. Indeed, it is mostly made up of water itself. The small quantities of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) also contribute to hydration, aiding in the absorption of fluids into the body.

Both of these electrolytes are lost through sweat, and a significant loss can lead to severe dehydration that needs more than just water to recover from. Just in our everyday life, it is said that not enough people get the recommended intake of potassium from their diet, so another source can’t harm you!

The sugar will also help in refuelling the muscles. When exercising, carbs are broken down into energy that powers the muscular system and keeps us moving. Without carbohydrates, your muscles won’t be nearly as effective! The small amount of sugar found in coconut water will help in refuelling to some degree, although this won’t be enough on its own for long or intense exercise.

Simply put, drinking coconut water is not going to be bad for your health, and definitely serves as a great alternative for cutting sugar from your diet if you’re looking to do so.

The Marathon: Coconut Water vs. Normal Water

The clear difference here is that coconut water contains more carbohydrates and electrolytes than plain water from a bottle or the tap. However, remember that both of these options are good to take on board before, during, and after running a marathon or similar endurance event.

Water will provide adequate hydration for the marathon, but a common mistake is simply drinking too much! This can cause stomach irritation and cause frequent bathroom stops. In extreme cases, you can flush out electrolytes from the body and impair the muscles.

On the other hand, coconut water has been shown to provide hydration benefits that are at least as good as water. The small amount of sugar and electrolytes can be a good boost, especially before and during the marathon, being an easy way to supplement fluids.

However, it helps your hydration; studies have found that coconut water won’t necessarily improve your performance when compared to water. But it is rare to find a product that will drastically cut your time!

Also, don’t rule out the psychological benefit of enjoying the taste that can be a much-needed pick-me-up in the last half of a marathon. Therefore, altering between some water and coconut water can be a refreshing boost.

The Marathon: Coconut Water vs. Sports Drinks

Sports drinks have been specifically designed to create a balance of necessary electrolytes, sugars, and fluids to fuel exercise. In terms of pure hydration benefits, sports drinks have been demonstrated to replenish the body’s stores of carbs and liquids quite effectively.

But, this study suggests that coconut water could have an equivalent impact on hydration to some sports drinks.

On a cooler day or during less intense training sessions, coconut water will provide adequate hydration before, during, and after. For the marathon, it also won’t be detrimental to your performance to drink coconut water.

However, sports drinks will be very beneficial during the marathon, given the intense nature of completing it. Making sure that you take on enough fluids along with nutrients is crucial to finishing in one piece. The extra sugars and electrolytes will be quickly absorbed from a sports drink, but again, take them on in moderation as too much can create more issues in the digestive system, and simply isn’t healthy to consume hundreds of grams of sugar!

Some Tips For Marathon Hydration

  1. Alternate between fluids. Water, coconut water, and sports drinks can all be a part of a successful marathon process! Making a hydration schedule that includes some or all of these in combination will keep you hydrated and can even help with your motivation.
  2. Don’t try anything new on race day! If you aren’t used to drinking coconut water, don’t experiment before running the marathon, even if you have heard so-called miracle benefits. This will risk a disaster!
  3. Practice. Like number 2, practising is key. Knowing what it feels like to drink coconut water (or other drinks) during a run will help on race day.
  4. Don’t panic. Be sensible in monitoring your hydration levels before, during, and after the race. Use how thirsty you feel, and your urine colour to gauge your levels, and be sensible. Drinking too much can be very uncomfortable and even prevent finishing.


Remember that whilst it might not change your life in a massive way, coconut water is still a good option. It can definitely be a part of your success in the marathon, providing an excellent alternative to consuming huge loads of sugar but still being tasty and hydrating. Try it, along with my tips, and you’re on your way to the finish line.

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